Formost people, making a pot of pour-over coffee is about the end result; a necessity to get them going in the morning. For weaver Emi Ito, however, the bubbles that appear as the coffee brews may be the inspiration for her next design.
Ito, who works from her attic studio in Bath, Maine, says the ideas for the colors and patterns used in her free-form woven pieces come from everywhere: nature, TV and movies, something she sees on a website and, yes, the irregular bubbles in that pot of coffee.
“I look at it and think, ‘Maybe I want to weave something like this.’”
A former makeup artist, Ito didn’t come to this practice from a fine-arts background, but rather from a curiosity about weaving that led her to take a Japanese Saori free-form weaving class, which emphasizes individual expression. The looms were already set up, and with few instructions, she says, “you could just pick your yarn and start weaving.” She has since studied and tried more traditional pattern-weaving techniques, but still prefers the freestyle method she first experienced in New York that allows her to put her handiwork into each piece.
The scarves and occasional wall hangings that Ito crafts are notable for their irregular, often curved margins, varied tension, multiple textures and use of color. “What I do is my idea, but I’ve seen similar things in tapestry-weaving books,” she explains. “It’s a tapestry technique, but with what I’m doing it’s uniquely my own.” She says she’s seen styles similar to hers, with embroidery or crochet added to the finished product to achieve the texture, “but I try to do that in the weaving.”
“I always think about the shape first,” she says about her process, taking into consideration how a scarf fits on the body, “so I have that in my mind. And then I have to think about how I can translate that to my weaving.”
Ito, who has five looms of various sizes in her studio, typically will set up 15 yards of warp and use that as the foundation for a series of pieces. She works with wool, silk and sometimes cotton and prefers thin or thick yarns—“not so much in the middle.” Because her pieces are wearable, and scarves are wrapped or looped around, Ito is very aware of how the colors and designs work on both sides of the scarf.
Her choice of colors is often set by her mood for that day. “When I wear
a certain color, then I tend to pick those colors,” she says, adding that some of her customers have noted that her pieces are designed to look good on her.
“So I had to change that to make what looks good on everyone,” she says with a laugh. “People know what looks good on them and I really enjoy seeing what colors people pick up. That’s why I like to make scarves: It’s around their face and it can change their appearance. It’s like an art piece or jewelry; it gives them a little lift.”
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Comfort food and time of day or night
you most enjoy eating it?
I love MISO soup at my lunch! I put a lot
of vegetables in it.